Album reviews: Barb Jungr, Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey, Sam Bailey, The Hold Steady, Seun Kuti + Egypt 80, Jimi Goodwin

 

Barb Jungr Hard Rain (Kristalyn)

Having established herself as one of the most imaginative of Dylan interpreters, Barb Jungr here extends her expertise to incorporate the Leonard Cohen catalogue, combining six songs from Dylan’s protest period with five of Cohen’s intriguing, compassionate reflections.

It’s a masterclass in the value of interpretive liberty, with songs transformed in almost revelatory manner. Cohen’s commemorative “Who By Fire” acquires a brooding menace  in alluring guise, becoming a death-song delivered as by a stealthy serpent. And the alliance of Clive Bell’s shakuhachi flute with Simon Wallace’s jazz piano arrangements opens up “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Masters of War”: in the former, the yearning breath of woodwind subtly emphasises the wistful air of battered hope in Jungr’s inflections, while the latter becomes a coolly desolate declamation, rather than a vengeful diatribe.

Likewise, the undulating piano of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” helps lubricate her tone of determination tempered with despair, and the languid treatment of “First We Take Manhattan” replaces the military manner of Cohen’s original with a dreamer’s fantasy.

It’s not always successful: the jaunty delivery of “Everybody Knows” underplays its mordant irony, and the urgent flood of “It’s Alright Ma” doesn’t really lend itself to Jungr’s blithe intonation. Better by far is “Chimes of Freedom”, which offers an elegant expansion of the song’s blend of spartan tone and florid poetics.

The best of the Cohen interpretations utilise the compassion in Jungr’s voice, particularly “Land of Plenty” and “1000 Kisses Deep”, the latter’s mélange of desire and despair beautifully captured in the quiet, intimate treatment.  As with the album generally, it’s a subtle balance of hot and cold, a work of fiery cool.

****

Download: Blowin’ in the Wind; Who By Fire; First We Take Manhattan; 1000 Kisses Deep

Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey Going Back Home (Chess)

If Going Back Home turns out to be Wilko Johnson’s last album then it’s a great final curtain. Recorded with his Blockhead rhythm section of drummer Dylan Howe and bassist Norman Watt-Roy, choice selections from the guitarist’s back catalogue are augmented by a lone cover, of Dylan’s “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?”. Save for the maudlin ballad “Turned 21”, it’s stuffed with brusque Wilko R&B cuts, with brilliantly condensed, biting fills chopped out in tracks like “Some Kind of Hero” and “Ice on the Motorway”, where the guitarist’s trademark slashing, staccato riffs evoke echoes of R&B pioneers Clarence Gatemouth Brown and Ike Turner. For his part, Daltrey matches Johnson every step of the way, fighting his corner just as fiercely as in his dayjob.

****

Download: Going Back Home; I Keep It to Myself; Some Kind Of Hero; Sneaking Suspicion

Sam Bailey The Power of Love (Syco)

Sam Bailey’s victory was the biggest foregone conclusion in the history of The X Factor, but even that predictability pales in comparison to her debut album, which simply presses the same button over and over again – the kind of overwrought belting that irons out any emotional wrinkles, but passes for great singing on TV talent shows. The material plays directly to this formula – the hit “Skyscraper”, covers of Jennifer Rush’s “The Power of Love”, Brenda Russell’s “Get Here”, and a duet with Michael Bolton on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” that, compared  to the joyous original, sounds more like mutual torture. Supertramp’s “Lord Is It Mine”,  a favourite of Bailey’s late father, is the joker in this pack – but  even that is ploughed into an identical furrow.

**

Download: Skyscraper; Lord Is It Mine

The Hold Steady Teeth Dreams (Washington Square)

Reconstituted with a brawny two-guitar attack, The Hold Steady return with another portfolio of dirty-realist tableaux in Teeth Dreams. The characters peopling songs like “The Ambassador” and the drug-dazed “Oaks” are low on trust, heavy on foreboding. But there’s a doughty perseverance about them, whether it’s the girl “two years off some prairie town” diving into big-city nightlife in “Spinners”, or the struggling small-time drug-dealer “waking up with that American Sadness” in “On with the Business”. “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You” is the album’s most complete and striking piece, its protagonist looking up old friends to find they’ve turned into survivalists with bulletproof vests and bunker mentalities: the dark underbelly of the American Dream, laid bare and raw-nerved. 

****

Download: I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You; On with the Business; Oaks

Seun Kuti + Egypt 80 A Long Way to the Beginning (Knitting Factory)

As with his older brother Femi, Seun Kuti’s work is effectively a direct extension of his father’s musical style and political beliefs – especially so in Seun’s case, given he now fronts Fela’s old band. A strong thread of anti-corporate, anti-corruption liberation ideology runs through A Long Way to the Beginning, with songs  such as “African Smoke” and “African Airways” offering metaphors for post-colonial control. Criticising the use of Chinese engines, Western pilots and World Bank radar, the latter characterises “Flight AA IOU” as directionless: “we no know where we dey go, so bad navigation no matter”. Throughout the album, the classic ebullient horn-riffing Afrobeat is augmented with prominent clipped rhythm guitar grooves, nowhere more powerfully than on “IMF”

***

Download: IMF; African Airways; Kalakuta Boy

Jimi Goodwin Odludek (Heavenly)

Doves frontman Jimi Goodwin makes the classic solo-album mistake with Odludek: buoyed by the realisation that he can do it all himself, he then goes and does it all himself, with no outsider input to rein in his indulgences. The result is an ambitious, varied, but largely unlovable work, its individual songs crammed with too many divergent ideas. Opener “Terracotta Warrior” is typical: a big, repeated fuzz-guitar monochord heralds a morass of guitar arpeggios, double drum tracks and orchestral arrangement – an absorbing production through which it’s hard to discern the lyrical thrust of Goodwin’s search for “the elemental force”. The best stuff here is the simplest, Goodwin’s hunt for passion and empathy in “Oh! Whiskey” built around acoustic guitar and harmonica, and the cycling arpeggios that bind together his tribute to “Didsbury Girl”. 

**

Download: Oh! Whiskey; Hope; Didsbury Girl

Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
'Africa' will be Angelina Jolie's fifth film as a director

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Arts and Entertainment
Bryan Cranston will play federal agent Robert Mazur in The Infiltrator

Books
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines